Salt bush is a shrub that grows throughout the Mediterranean region, in the Middle East, northern Africa, and southern Europe. As its name suggests, it is especially common in areas where the soil is saline. Salt bush is a nutritious plant, high in protein, vitamins
D, and minerals such as
chromium. It is also fairly tasty—shepherds as well as their flocks enjoy eating salt bush.
Salt bush may prove useful in the treatment of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent or adult onset)
diabetes. This idea came to the attention of medical researchers in 1964, when they discovered that a rodent called the sand rat (
Psammomys obesus) is highly susceptible to developing diabetes.1
Yet wild sand rats, which regularly consume salt bush, never show any signs of diabetes—they tend to develop it in response to being fed regular laboratory food! As a result, scientists have explored the possibility that salt bush has an antidiabetic effect.
The results of
animal studies and preliminary human trials suggest that salt bush does indeed have antidiabetic effects.2-6
However, while these studies are certainly intriguing, only
studies can prove a treatment effective, and none have yet been reported. (For information on why this type of study is essential, see
Why Does This Database Rely on Double-Blind Studies?) For this reason, the use of salt bush for diabetes remains highly speculative.
Some animal researchers speculate that the effect of salt bush (if, indeed, it has one) may be partly due to the chromium it contains.7
Considerable evidence indicates that
supplementation can improve blood sugar control, especially in type 2 diabetes. However, there could be other active ingredients in salt bush as well.
No standard dosage of salt bush has been established.
Warning: Diabetes is a serious disease that should be treated only under medical supervision. Salt bush cannot be used as a substitute for insulin. Blood sugar levels should also be closely monitored. For more information, see Safety Issues.
As a plant food commonly consumed by animals and humans, salt bush appears to be relatively safe. However, no comprehensive safety testing of salt bush has been performed. For this reason, it should not be used by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.
Keep in mind that if salt bush is effective, the result might be excessive lowering of blood sugar levels. For this reason, people with diabetes who take salt bush should do so only under a physician's supervision.8,9
Adler JH, Lazarovici G, Marton M, et al. The diabetic response of weanling sand rats (
Psammomys obesus) to diets containing different concentrations of salt bush (
Diabetes Res. 1986;3:169–171.
Aharonson Z, Shani J, Sulman FG. Hypoglycaemic effect of the salt bush (
Atriplex halimus)—a feeding source of the sand rat (
Shani J, Ahronson Z, Sulman FG, et al. Insulin-potentiating effect of salt bush (
Atriplex halimus) ashes.
Isr J Med Sci. 1972;8:757–758.
Stern E. Successful use of Atriplex halimus in the treatment of type 2 diabetic patients: a preliminary study. Zamenhoff Medical Center, Tel Aviv, 1989.
Earon G, Stern E, and Lavosky H. Successful use of Atriplex halimus in the treatment of type 2 diabetic patients. Controlled clinical research report on the subject of Atriplex. Unpublished study conducted at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1989.
Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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